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Landmark decision: Sri Lanka's Supreme Court rules presidential pardon invalid for the first time

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court delivered a unanimous ruling declaring a presidential pardon invalid for the first time in the country's history earlier today.

The historic decision revolves around Duminda Silva, a former Member of Parliament, who, alongside four others, was convicted in 2016 by the High Court for the 2011 murder of politician Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. The five individuals were sentenced to death, a verdict upheld later by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, following his election victory in 2019, established a Presidential Commission to investigate incidents of political victimization. This commission recommended the release of Duminda Silva, leading to a special pardon granted exclusively to Silva in June 2021.

Challenges to the legality of this pardon surfaced through three fundamental rights petitions filed with the Supreme Court. The court took note of these challenges, and in May 2022, the former MP was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) while receiving treatment at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital. This arrest occurred after the Supreme Court granted leave to proceed with the case against him and suspended the special Presidential Pardon.

The Supreme Court's ruling emphasized that the former President failed to adhere to proper legal procedures in granting the special Presidential Pardon, deeming it illegal and invalid. The court ordered prison authorities to take necessary actions in line with its judgment regarding Duminda Silva.

MP M.A. Sumanthiran, speaking to the media during a court visit to Mankulam, highlighted the significance of this ruling, stating, "For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, the court has ruled that the pardon of a President is invalid. This is a welcome development as some other cases are also pending. We are also challenging the pardon given to Sunil Ratnayake, the murderer responsible for the Mirusuvil massacre."

The Mirusuvil massacre, occurring on December 20, 2000, involved the arrest and subsequent murder of eight internally displaced refugees, allegedly by Sri Lankan Army soldiers. Sunil Ratnayake, found guilty of the murders in 2015, was pardoned and released in March 2020 by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 

Read more:

Sri Lanka pardons soldier imprisoned over massacre of Tamils

Revisiting the Mirusuvil massacre

Justice reversed for victims of the Mirusuvil massacre - Amnesty

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